6 Great Reasons to Join a ERP User Group
ERP user groups seem to be growing in popularity. Epicor recently announced that their user group hit a milestone of 4,000 users worldwide with membership that had grown by more than 50% during the past three years. Oracle’s user group has a LinkedIn group with an introduction that reads, “the rapidly growing and largest group on LinkedIn for Oracle ERP.” If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about joining an ERP user group. Besides the obvious benefit of being a great place to network with other users in your geographical area, why consider joining a ERP user group?
6 Great Reasons to Join a ERP User Group
- ERP User Groups are for the Users and Should be Managed by the Users
- ERP User Groups serve as a Liaison between the Software Publisher and Users
- ERP User Groups can Influence the Direction of the Product Line
- ERP User Groups can Influence a User Conference Agenda
- ERP User Groups are Educational
- ERP User Groups provide Local Networking Opportunities
Now to expand on each of the above points.
1. ERP User Groups are for the Users and are best Managed by the Users
According to ERPInsights.com, ERP user groups are typically managed by either the software vendor or by the users and “this difference in management is very influential in determining the type of content, subject matter forums and user benefits. Most experienced users believe that vendor run ERP user groups are foremost a vendor selling tool for both existing customers and new prospects.” ERP Insights also points out that when vendors manage ERP user group meetings, that the information that gets back to corporate is typically filtered of criticism and that topics are directed “to planned (business development) destinations.”
Independent user groups tend to form a more balanced and meaningful relationship with the software manufacturer
“Independent user groups tend to form a more balanced and meaningful relationship with the software manufacturer in order to address post-sale topics such as system utilization, new features, new version upgrades, system administration and software evolution.” says ERPInsights.com. The independent user groups almost always achieve greater system empowerment and benefits which translate to increased job performance.”
SAP’s user group (ASUG) agrees “we must continually balance our partnership and our independence in order to maintain our strategic relationship with SAP and ensure that our member voices are heard. Our ASUG Influence program does just that. It leverages our collective voice to provide SAP with independent responses and recommendations on various aspects of its solutions and services while also enabling our members to build relationships with SAP professionals.”
Remaining independent provides users with a place to go for candid conversations and insights while being able to be a collective voice.
Whereas a software publisher or local Value Added Reseller (VAR) may help a ERP user group get up and running, once established there are definite benefits when the the user group is managed by the users. Remaining independent provides users with a place to go for candid conversations and insights while being able to be a collective voice.
2. ERP User Groups Serve as a Liaison between the Software Publisher and Users
ERP software publishers look to their user groups to be the voice of their users. ERP user group members, not typically your day to day users, but instead those in managerial roles or possibly the super users, are the users that are looking to get the most from their ERP investment.
ERP publishers look to their user groups to be the voice of their users.
User group members join forces to share expertise and gain insights on best practices, the latest tips and tricks, and more while also bringing forward to the software publisher the best ideas for product enhancements.
Users managing the user group may have product expertise in certain areas or functions (for example, business intelligence, supply chain management, etc.) and serve as the liaison for their area of expertise. Such is the case with Epicor’s User Group (EUG) which according to their website, has board members with product expertise with the group holding multiple meetings with Epicor every month, monitoring their development of products, new releases etc. The liaison role of a user group can be enhanced when the user group identifies users with specific expertise to share user-centric insights with the publisher.
3. ERP User Groups can Influence the Direction of the Product Line
Yes it is true that by the time a software vendor announces their upcoming product release to the general public, a significant amount of time and resources have been invested by product management and development to define and narrow down the main features, functionality and enhancements being targeted for the release. Additionally, if the release is not in beta already, it’s soon to be and most features have therefore been locked down with little room for change; if something were changed at this point, it would mostly likely not be more than a minor enhancement to keep the product release as close to the announced schedule as possible.
How do software vendors decide what to add into their next release? Ideas can come from a variety of sources, from technology experts, to industry experts, to competitive information to feedback from their end users, prospective customers and more. Independent user groups can play an important role in providing software vendors feedback for features and the prioritization of features for forthcoming product releases.
Independent user groups can play an important role in providing software vendors feedback for features.
For example, Epicor’s user group (EUG) website states “We are the PRIMARY external, independent, source of product enhancements and work closely with Epicor to ensure that the enhancements work correctly for our industries.” Members of EUG are able to provide feedback through an Enhancement Portal that is reviewed by Epicor’s development team. So, you may not have given the benefit of being part of a group of influential voices much thought, but it’s worth considering.
4. ERP User Groups can Influence a User Conference Agenda
Software vendors invite their users to conferences to help promote up and coming releases and also offer an education track for their users. User conference agendas need to balance the vendors desire to promote their products with the needs of their users. If the user conference is driven by the software publisher, then the content will be driven by what the software vendor thinks is most important. If the software publisher and user groups co-sponsor a user conference, then the user groups will have an opportunity to work in conjunction with the publisher in developing the conference agenda.
5. ERP User Groups are Educational
ERP user groups can be educational, as they can provide insight through online resources and forums, social media groups, special events, regional meetings, webcasts and more. Regional meetings offer presentations covering a wide array of both industry specific and more general topics that are of interest to the group. ERP user groups can therefore offer opportunities for continued education enabling users to make the most of todays technologies.
6. ERP User Groups Provide Local Networking Opportunities
Never underestimate the importance of networking. ERP user groups offer a great forum for establishing and building relationships while getting you involved and ‘plugged in’ to what’s going on within a community of users in both your regional area and as a whole. ERP user groups provide opportunities to network with industry peers to learn how others have solved business issues and learn from their experiences. Through networking you also have an opportunity to establish informal lines of communications with other attendees, industry experts and the software publisher. Building a strong network of relationships will help you continue to grow both personally and professionally.
Please contact MIS if you need assistance connecting with a local Epicor ERP User Group.